|Day-old incubator chicks|
(Photo courtesy of USDA)
Chicks hatching under a mother hen bond with her and their nest mates even before hatching. The hen clucks softly to her eggs, and the chicks begin peeping softly to each other from inside their eggs -- a very different sound than the distress call. By the time the hatch is over, they are already a bonded family unit. Incubator chicks can't bond with a machine, but they probably do bond with each other.
|A mother hen sitting on her nest|
in my backyard. The pale yellow
spot by her breast is a new chick.
(click photo to enlarge)
A minimum of three chickens is needed for a happy flock. Unless you live on a farm, just what are you going to do with three roosters? Every year, animal shelters are inundated with unwanted chickens and ducks after the holiday, birds that have grown too big and too noisy for urban backyards. These birds are very hard to re-home, because most people don't want a crowing rooster anymore than you and your neighbors do.
|This little chick was hatched |
by the hen above, and grew up
knowing his mother
There is also a very real danger that children can accidentally kill a baby chick or duckling simply by holding it wrong. Birds do not breathe the same way we do. They have no diaphragm. Instead, they must rely on the expansion and contraction of their little chests to breathe. If you hold a chick too tightly -- as children often do -- he can smother in minutes. Unfortunately, this happens more often than we want to hear about. There is nothing more traumatic than having a child's pet die in her hands.
The bottom line is: Jewish law says that you should not acquire any animal unless you can feed and care for it properly. As readers of my blog know, I myself have chickens, and I am not against keeping them, if you can properly care for them for their full lifespans -- which is an average of 8 to 10 years. If not, then it is better to buy your kids a plush toy.